Drift king Darren Kelly has committed to entering the Battle of Jacks Ridge on November 15 and is not there to make up numbers.
The D1NZ champion will pilot one of WRC star Hayden Paddon’s cross karts at the purpose-built WRC-calibre power stage in Auckland and take on the best rally drivers in the country in what is fast becoming one of the biggest spectacles of motorsport the country has seen.
But Kelly isn’t just turning up to have a go; he wants to mix it with the best.
“Everything we try to do we do to the most competitive level – it is the natural instinct of any racer,” Kelly said.
“I definitely have the goal of trying to mix it up with the best guys out there.
“It doesn’t matter whether you have a huge amount of experience or not we are always trying to think of how we can perform the best and go out and have as much fun as possible and do as well as we can.”
While his prowess on tarmac is well-documented Kelly has long harboured a desire to compete in other forms of motorsport and the COVID-19-disrupted 2020 has created additional space on his calendar that normally would not be there.
“It seems to have been quite the year for different disciplines in motorsport,” Kelly said. “I am really excited to get behind the wheel of something new.
“It is something I have wanted to do for quite some time – some off road or dirt style driving.
“I remember seeing one of these cars at the Leadfoot Festival and thinking at the time that it looks a lot of fun and how I would like to get behind the wheel of one so it is quite cool to be able to make that happen.”
While clearly one of the world’s premier drift competitors, Kelly has never competed on any loose surface events before although he has some experience driving on gravel.
“I did when I was growing up,” he explained. “I had mainly just fun level off road go karts and things. My dad lived on a 500-acre farm, so we were always tearing around on off road go karts or quad bikes and that sort of stuff.
“I have a bit of experience on dirt but not so much in something as wild as one of these things.
“I still ride as much as I can on a 250CC Kawasaki bike – limited to what I can do there with commitments to other motorsport.”
While he’s yet to visit Jacks Ridge, Kelly has been a keen observer on the footage of drivers getting a taste of the stage.
“I have seen a lot of the footage and just the build process in terms of what they’ve been doing. It looks really cool. I saw some footage from last week and it looks pretty intense.”
The Battle of Jacks Ridge will be broadcast live on Sky Sport. Tickets are available via Ticket Fairy.